REVIEW | The Power by Naomi Alderman

Hellooo, everyone! I hope you’re all fine and dandy. As you know, I’m a massive book lover and have been making my way slowly but surely through my ever expanding collection, and with International Women’s Day fast approaching, I thought it’d be most appropriate to share my thoughts on this little gem with you lovely lot. The Power by Naomi Alderman is a gripping and exciting novel truly in a league of its own. It is one of the most thought provoking, enlightening and electric (sorry, couldn’t resist) stories I’ve ever read and if you haven’t come across a copy yet, then I urge you to do so – you won’t regret it!

The story takes place in an alternate reality, where women everywhere, all over the globe, discover that they have “the power” and are able to emit electric charges and jolts through touch, causing serious pain, injury and even death. Through this revelation, females then become the dominant gender in an extreme exploration of inverted gender roles. It begins with teenagers; girls on the precipice of adulthood begin to feel a prickling sensation in their bodies, whispering to them that they are strong, that they “can do it”. Instead of girls exploring their developing sexuality and the “power” that can bring, they thrive on the discovery of their new, startlingly real power; an altogether different and intoxicating kind of awakening. The teenage girls then discover they can teach elder women how to unlock the power laying dormant inside them, setting off a chain of events that alters the fabric of society forever.

Alderman uses four main characters to explore this new world. There’s Roxy, the cocky, self-assured daughter of a London gangster; Allie, an abused foster child who kills her foster father (and sexual abuser) with a devastating electric jolt before reinventing herself as ‘Mother Eve’, an enlightened spiritual figure who uses religion and faith to garner followers and create new order and thinking in the world. There’s also Tunde, a male aspiring journalist who sets off on a globe trotting adventure to chase the story after seeing the first footage of females harnessing their power online. He discovers, firsthand, what it is like to reach adulthood as the weaker sex. Finally, there’s Margot, a politician and mother who, after years of fighting for respect in her environment, is suddenly able to execute her power to suit her own agendas. Her daughter, Jocelyn, struggles with her power, finding it painful and unreliable. This then becomes an interesting exploration of the mother/daughter relationship, whilst also demonstrating the plight of those girls whose power fails them. This is an interesting concept, particularly when thinking about the societal pressures on men to be “macho” or stereotypically “strong” – what must it be like to be part of the “stronger” sex, but defined as one of the “weak” ones?

The characters are multifaceted and bold, but sometimes melodramatic and a tad contrived. Roxy, in particular, is a little brassy and some of her dialogue is rather clichéd and cringeworthy at times, but it never detracts from the drama or the glorious exploration of power and how those that have it seem destined to abuse it.

This over the top, thrill-seeking page turner races through countless countries and societies. Alderman shows us oppressed women that fight and rise; victims of sex trafficking overthrowing their exploiters, and as the tale progresses, she shows us disturbing, uncomfortably graphic scenes of extreme sexual violence against men. Men are segregated, given curfews and guardians; they avoid women and are frightened to walk home alone at night. The sight of a little spark of electricity in the dead of the night is enough to send panic shooting through their entire bodies, as they race for shelter and safety. It’s a mesmerising image, especially in the wake of recent allegations, discoveries and the #metoo movement. What woman hasn’t felt frightened walking home late from work, or a social event? What woman hasn’t felt the need to sugarcoat a rejection of a man’s advancements, out of fear of some sort of unpleasant retaliation? What woman hasn’t panicked feeling the presence of a larger figure behind her, standing a little too close for comfort, only to berate herself for being “paranoid” when the figure crosses the street and goes in the opposite direction?

This novel is brilliant at making you root for the women at the start and relish in their power. Alderman articulates those all too familiar fears and the paranoia so superbly that at first, it’s quite exciting to imagine women in an uprising, taking over and executing their power in the most devastating and coveted of ways. Who doesn’t want to see a victim defeat their attacker? As the story progresses however, women become crazy with power; some are deranged and despicably cruel, and Mother Eve wants to stop and start again, completely rewriting history. It all gets a little mad, nothing feels safe and doom is imminent.

Although this book deals in great detail with the power issues between males and females, the story can be applied to the gender spectrum at large. However you self-identify, this book speaks as a warning to those that have the power and ultimately, abuse it. In Alderman’s tale, it didn’t matter that women had experienced abuse and sexism for ions; they still took their newfound power and abused it, allowing those that were weaker to suffer. In her vivid, loud characters, Alderman shows us all the damaging flaw in our species: our desire to survive often trumps treating one another as equals. The final line of this marvellous book, which is delivered thousands of years after the events of the story have taken place, confirms this and it is absolutely, breathtakingly brilliant.

I will stop there, because I could ramble on about this book forever! Have you read The Power or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading, folks!

Much love,

Jess XO

Leave a Reply